Welcome to Dirty Shorts, which has nothing to do with that festering pile of laundry in the bathroom. This is a series of reviews of short horror films, with a touch of analysis and some snark, for good measure. And lots of tissues for all those nicks on your chin.
The Big Shave
Directed by Martin Scorsese
THE STORY: A man shaves. That’s it. Oh, and then he cuts himself. Like…a lot.
To say Vietnam was a major influence to particular set of working directors, writers, and producers would be a profoundly undersold statement. George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola to name a few, but it was Scorsese that, in many ways, sidestepped the war.
When you look at his contemporaries, there is a line of demarcation that separates him from the others and it is his refusal to glorify war.* Star Wars: A New Hope is a propaganda film for a revolution that didn’t actually happen. Apocalypse Now turned the very really horror of a million ways to die in a jungle half a planet away into an acid trip Vietnam backdropped Through The Looking Glass. While Taxi Driver was no doubt an examination of the after effects of war, Scorsese was seemingly more concerned with escapist fare like Boxcar Bertha, Mean Streets and Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.
Martin did have something to say, though.
The Big Shave aka Viet ’67 is a short film that wears its on-the-nose opinions about the conflict in Vietnam with pride. A man shaves, finishes, and starts over again. In the process, he hurts himself by doing the same thing over and over. There is a crispness and energy to the 1967 model Scorsese. He was four years into his film making career and still had yet to full refine his style, but you can see the already sprouting seeds that would become his aesthetic.
So, hey, Mr. Critic. How is this a horror short? You write for a horror site and you’re telling me about 50-something year old political situations. So how is this horror?
Blood, baby. Blood.
This gets gory. Like, there may actually be more blood in this than in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre ’74. It’s not just the blood, but the delivery of said blood via, special effects, camera work, and editing. The power of The Big Shave is in cognitive dissonance. As you watch the film, you know what’s about to happen. The bathroom is almost a blank canvass: white sink, white, walls, white floors. Even a white guy in a white shirt. Then the razor comes out. It’s only a matter of time, right.
The horror comes in a subtle moment. As the man shaves and reshapes, blood appears in larger and larger swatches on his face and neck. It’s not clear if he’s oblivious, numb, or aware of his razor based transgressions, but he doesn’t stop. He doesn’t stop doing the same thing over and over, even at the cost of his own life. That sort of dedication to self destruction is nothing to be celebrated, romanticized, or ignored. It is to be feared. That’s horror. That’s tension. Now I kinda wish Scorsese had made more sleazy grindhouse movies. It’s never too late, I guess.
WHAT MOVIE SHOULD I WATCH AFTER THIS? Taxi Driver, Platoon, Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, American Dad S2E09:The Best Christmas Story Never**
*By using the term “war”, I am referring specifically to conflicts between nation states as opposed to violence carried out by criminal elements and or “street-level” actors for the express purpose of profit.
** Stan time travels, meets 1970s Martin Scorsese, tells him he’s a big fan to which Scorsese replies, “You saw my six minute film about a guy shaving?”
Images courtesy of YouTube
Writer. Wrestling mark. Dog parent. Halloween enthusiast. Always wondering about the me on Earth 616 and what he/she/it’s up to. Currently residing in Los Angeles.